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TODAY

Saturday, April 20

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Airbags

My dearest Brew & View,

It's been several years since we first met, but my love for you remains as strong as ever. It was Memorial Day, 1997. The movie was Scream. The line to get in the theater stretched south half a block before winding around the corner. The place was packed to the rafters, and we managed to snag seats in the balcony. From the audience shrieking at the scares, laughing at the actors even when they weren't being intentionally funny, and a guy yelling out, "Aaayyyyyyy!" when Henry Winkler made his first appearance, it ranks among my top ten movie experiences.

For the uninitiated, Brew & View at the Vic is the opportunity to see mostly second-run movies at a discount whilst smoking a cigarette and drinking an alcoholic beverage or seven. The usual format is two films on weeknights and a triple feature on Friday and Saturday evenings. The combination of beer and non–Oscar caliber movies presents an experience far removed from the usual time spent at a multiplex. Think Mystery Science Theater 3000 but on a larger scale. Live. And with booze. As the Vic Theatre's home page explains, "If you want to quietly concentrate on the movie, this is the wrong place. But if you want to see an old or new favorite for five bucks while drinking beer or a mix drink, this is paradise."

Ah, yes. Paradise. In 1997 I lived in the building across the street. I despised both my job and my roommate at the time, and I needed a place to escape. A place to call my own. A fan of cheesy movies from way back, Brew & View offered a respite from my daytime hours. For $4, I could get away from being an office assistant/punching bag as well as whichever flavor of the week my roomie was sampling. Being in an audience that cheered whenever hometown boy Chris O'Donnell got the crap kicked out of him in Batman & Robin (and booed when he survived an attempt on his life), I felt included and happy and transported. The "worse" the movie, the more fun everyone had.

When I moved into my own place several blocks away in 1998, I continued to spend several evenings with you, organizing large group excursions to see Starship Troopers and the sing-along double feature of Grease and Moulin Rogue! Yes, I can say with pride I have managed to shout a few zingers at the screen that were met with laughter, cheers and — the ultimate validation — even applause. (Ask me about "Summer Nights.") I was even there for what might have been your only quadruple feature, starting at 6 pm: Pleasantville, Enemy of the State, The Waterboy and the midnight favorite, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It was eight and a half hours of watching, drinking, and OK, sleeping on my friend's shoulder through Holy Grail. But I was physically there the whole time!

Brew & View occasionally shows sporting events on the big screen, including Bears games and the Super Bowl. Last night, you showed the second game of the World Series. (Go Sox!) Unfortunately, there are concerts scheduled for the remainder of the series. Then again, the Vic is within spitting distance of Wrigley. Perhaps it's better not to have a large number of imbibing Sox fans in that neighborhood. You also screened certain television shows during the dawn of the reality TV genre. I was at Brew & View (in box seats, actually, as one of my friends knew the guy working the door) when Richard Hatch was announced as the winner of the first installment of Survivor. This practice has mostly fallen by the wayside, though, which is fine with me. You deserve better than Jeff Probst, Brew & View.

However, like any relationship, there have been issues and problems between us. You allow smoking, which isn't my favorite thing but it's usually fairly tolerable. However, this also means that occasionally there's often the telltale scent of a stogie or two, and I hate cigar smoke. The downstairs booths/benches and hard chairs aren't the most comfortable seating, especially over a four-hour period. And not that long ago, you stopped selling beer by the pitcher and now only sell it by the glass... or clear plastic cup. It might be an economic choice or a way to keep patrons from getting too inebriated, but that doesn't mean I like it.

Even though I no longer live across the street or even within walking distance, my affection for Brew & View has not diminished one bit. I have to plan my visits in advance and consider transportation options now, but this makes the excursions even more special to me. You provided a nearby haven during a rough time, and don't think I ever forgot that. You're one of the places I immediately took out-of-town guests. To me, you're as Chicago as stuffed pizza or the lakefront. Sure, I know several other cities have similar setups, and I must say the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas is an amazing venue. But you'll always be my first, my favorite, my only. Brew & View, I love you! Thanks for the good times and the memories, even if some of them — OK, more than some — are filtered through a good-natured, beery haze.

Love, love, love,
Dee

P.S. I would really appreciate it if you'd add The Fog to your schedule as soon as possible. It's a perfect match (unlike Tom Welling and Maggie Grace in the film itself) for this venue and begs for a proper Brew & View mocking. I can't wait to cheer for the CGI fog that rolls down the beach after a stupid little boy. Fog! Fog! Fog!

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About the Author(s)

As a child, Dee Stiffler was only allowed to watch one hour of television a day. She usually chose Sesame Street. Today, she overcompensates by knowing far too much about the WB's lineup as well as pop culture in general. Email her at pop@gapersblock.com.

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